March 28, 2011

I hope you all have had a lovely week! Motra Hoxsie and I have had a rather quiet week here in Tirana, but nevertheless a good week. I am a little behind in the times, but happy Albanian Mother's Day! It was actually on March 8th, but we didn't have the parties for it until these past weeks. Plus I learned that it is better to celebrate birthdays and holidays late rather than earlier because apparently to have an early birthday party before the actual day is really bad luck. Keep that in mind!
Last week and this week we were able to join the Relief Societies of our two branches for their little women parties. This weekend it was with the 1st branch, and they just had a little lesson and then one of the new members that we work with taught all the other how to make this Greek Dessert. I even learned! And believe it or not, I was actually one of the more knowledgeable people running the oven and stove in the kitchen! I think that was just because everyone is used to their own propane tank portable little stoves and not an electric oven.
Anyway, I think I earned some good brownie points with the women that night. It was actually really just great because I don't know as many of the women in the 1st branch, so just getting to know them and let them get to know me a little better was great! It seems like it may have been quite awhile since some of the older sisters that have years and years in the church have done anything with the Motras. I guess they had been sometimes neglected by the Motras in the past (not the Motras fault....they just have had lots of other work to do.) So anyway, I was able to start building some relationships with them.

Another reason that it's hard to give proper attention to all the members is because in our area we are over two branches (1st and 3rd), but it isn't like the other side of Tirana where I was before, because here we have two separate buildings which are a 30-45 minutes walk away from each other. So we are just kinda torn between the two, and try to share our time equally, but it can be difficult. Especially because 3rd branch seems to be a little smaller and weaker, so we tend to try and help out there more. So actually yesterday Motra Hoxsie and I did splits and she went to 3rd branch church and I went to 1st branch church (we obviously had temporary member companions). Obviously splitting up is the best way to get more done, but I'm just a little selfish and want to get to know everyone, so that is kinda hard. I guess I've just become a people person and I love getting to know ALL the members.

Okay, back to parties. So last week we went to the 3rd branch party for Women's Day/Mother's Day and I'll be honest, it was a lot cooler than the 1st party that I mentioned above. We went to a restaurant where they usually hold wedding parties, etc. and had a nice dinner and then had a sweet dance party. They had music playing the whole time but just some of the little kids who had tagged along with their mothers were out dancing around. But then the Relief Society President joined them and she couldn't get any of the other women to join her, except me. We started the Albanian Popullore traditional dance, and by the end of the night we had almost every sister out their dancing, plus half of the other people in the restaurant. I love starting cool things!
It was Motra Hoxsie's first time seeing the traditional dance and participating and she is now as converted as I am. It was hilarious though, because Motra Hoxsie with her blond hair, etc. has "American" written all over her, so after some popullore dances the DJ turned on some American 60's dance music. Hoxsie didn't disappoint though, she grabbed me and put on a little swing show for the whole place. Unfortunately neither of us know how to lead, but I don't think anyone else could tell because they were all loving it and some of the women even came out and tried to learn. Anyway, I think it was a great use of our lunch time and again we just had some major bonding time with all the women, especially the ones that usually don't get out too much to church.

As for actual work, we started working a lot with the branch mission leader in 3rd branch, Brother Vogli, and he is just amazing. He is one of the original members, in fact he learned English by reading the Book of Mormon before it was translated into Albanian, and he is just a spiritual giant in my book. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but it was his little 5 year old son that was going around with him to visit the other branches and would get up and recite the 13 Articles of Faith for the whole branch. Now his kids are learning the A of F in English and it is super cute! Anyway, Brother Vogli took us this week with his two daughters (Ester, 11, and Sara, 8,) to visit 3 families that have been inactive for many, many years. In each home we were very welcome and they all had signs of the church in their home, ie: pictures of temples or a used Book of Mormon sitting on the family book shelf, etc. These people all seem to still have great faith, but for various reasons had fallen away and become busy with life. Brother Vogli shared powerful testimonies with all of them and practically begged them to come back, but he was very sincere. And his daughters were super cute too and the little one would always ask before we left, "are you going to come to church Sunday?"
Despite all their commitments to come, not one made it to church and I was kinda disappointed, but realized that I can't always expect just one visit to correct all that has happened in the past years. I have great faith though in these people we visited because they all still have testimonies, they just need some strengthening. Many of them have been offended and hurt in former years by others of the church, and it is a struggle for them to understand that although the Gospel is perfect, none of the members or leaders are perfect---that is why we go to church!

Well, I hope you all have a great week! Happy Spring Breaks and good luck at the Yuma County Fair....that almost made me home sick thinking of showing sheep at the fair, but not quite! :)

Motra Hall